Culture Perception of Fangirls

tumblr_static_fandoms_unite_by_purpleperson17-d66ygokWhen I think of the term “fan”, I often can’t help but to think of preteen girls, hysterically crying, and losing all sense of control over emotional outbursts.  Or I’ll think of sports fans who also tend to have outburst of excitement, or devastation, depending on their team winning or losing (UConn fans anyone?). However, there appears to be so much more to fandom than can be seen at the surface. In their book Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls, Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis discuss their personal experiences with fandom, along with the cultural perceptions of what it means to be an “obsessive” fan. In the books introduction they note:

“Given the culture’s clear discomfort with fans, it’s a wonder that any of us admit to being one. And yet fans keep film studios profitable, television shows on the air, Fifty Shades of Grey on the shelves, and gossip magazines and blogs in business” (Larsen and Zubernis, 3).

It’s clear that devoted fans keep these industries thriving. Without them, series like The Hunger GamesHarry Potter, or the like, would not have been as successful as they’ve proven to be. It’s no wonder we are seeing a rise in the amount of movie series, because they keep fans devoted and excited for what is to come. These fandoms don’t just benefit the industry, they also benefit participants by allowing people to come together to share interests and ideas with other’s who are passionate about the same things. There is a great sense of community that comes along with involvement in fandoms, which is one of it’s biggest appeals–Larsen and Zubernis note:


Courtesy of OhNoTheyDidn’t Live Journal

“Communities are defined as networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support, information, a sense of belonging and social identity. That describes exactly what we found in fandom. Within online fan communities, members police group norms and defend their electronic boundaries against outsiders, just as they do in their local neighborhoods” (Larsen and Zubernis, 21).

This goes to show that cultural perception is often wrong. This type of involvement is not meant for isolated people, looking to find comfort in a fantasy world. Instead it is meant for individuals to form collective and social identities, with others who share the same passion for TV shows, movies, books, etc. When one individual affiliated with a certain fandom “taints” the collective reputation, the other members do not seem to take it lightly. For example, the Flying-Fangirl at the Supernatural convention mentioned in chapter 1. Although many might be able to relate to such impulses, when encounter your favorite television show actor/actress, many fans Supernatural fans (and all fangirls) worried it would reassert stereotypes of fangirls:

“Flying Fangirl threatened to undo the assertion that fangirls are not crazy stalker chicks but rather women indulging in normal and healthy passions” (Larsen and Zubernis, 31).

Fans of Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber react as he performs at a free open-air concert at Zocalo Square in Mexico CityAlthough I can understand why many felt their collective reputation was a stake,  I feel that an incident such as this is bound to happen every now and then, considering fangirls outnumber fanboys. Many of these fangirls are adolescents who get caught up in the one-sidedness of fandom, meaning they establish such a strong emotional, and personal, investment into an artist, movie, TV series, etc., and feel as though they know their favorite stars. This one-sided relationship, coined  as “parasocial interactions,” by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl in the 1950s (Larsen and Zubernis, 13) is important to understand why people become fans:

“[Horton and Wohl] saw the false intimacy created by fan’s feelings of knowing the celebrity, and the celebrity’s experience of the fan as a stranger, as inherently pathological in its one-sidedness” (Larsen and Zubernis, 13).

While many may criticize this type of passionate involvement from fans, I feel that it is all part of what makes the creative industries thrive. Fans, especially fangirls, keep these industries and artists afloat–because without them, who would be around to care enough.



Work Cited

Larsen, Katherine, and Lynn S. Zubernis. Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls. Iowa City: University of Iowa, 2013. PDF.

Images from Creative Commons

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